Jurisdiction: BVI | Advanced Privacy Features: Kill Switch, RAM-only servers, Private DNS, Split Tunneling | Number of Servers and Countries: 3,000 VPN servers in 160 locations, across a total of 94 countries | Streaming and P2P: Yes
Want to know more about ExpressVPN before deciding whether or not to sign up with them? You’re in the right place. In this exhaustive, in-depth ExpressVPN review, you’ll learn more about who they are, where they’re based, what services they offer, how they compare to other VPNs, and more. You won’t need to read any other ExpressVPN reviews because we cover everything.
For more information about our top VPNs, click here. If money is tight, check out our best free VPN and best cheap VPN pages. If you just want to unblock Netflix (or similar services) and aren’t worried about the other details, see this guide.
ExpressVPN (sometimes written Express VPN instead) is one of the most extensive VPN services currently operating. ExpressVPN VPN servers are available in 160 locations across 94 countries. This isn’t the largest network on the planet, but it’s still higher than most competitors and more than enough for most users’ needs.
This service offers a single plan for variable durations, which is standard throughout the VPN industry. This means that all of its features are available even on the cheapest plan. We’ll talk more about ExpressVPN’s pricing options later. For now, the main thing to know is that when comparing each VPN ExpressVPN compares relatively well.
Understanding jurisdiction and privacy laws aren’t important to Express VPN reviews alone. It matters for reviews of every VPN service.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). For those who aren’t familiar with the cartography, the BVI are located a little way east of Puerto Rico and northeast of the US Virgin Islands, which are entirely different. The region consists of four main islands and several dozen smaller, mostly-uninhabited bits of rock.
The British Virgin Islands are a privacy-friendly jurisdiction because they have their own legislature and judiciary despite sharing the monarch of Great Britain, and they do not have any data retention laws. The lack of data retention laws means that VPNs like ExpressVPN are not vulnerable to data breaches.
Overall, this is an excellent jurisdiction for a VPN and similar to other favorable locations like Bulgaria, Romania, and Singapore. This can always change if a nation decides to edit its privacy laws, but since international firms bring in a lot of money for small jurisdictions like the BVI, it’s unlikely they’ll make moves to drive companies away.
ExpressVPN is relatively transparent. Their most notable move towards transparency comes with a questionnaire they set up alongside the Center For Democracy And Technology, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote transparency and accountability in online platforms while minimizing censorship and surveillance.
Charity Navigator rates the CDT as about an 88/100 as of mid-2020, with impeccable accountability and transparency on its own part. The CDT spends about 78% of its income on its programs and expenses, which is relatively good for a charity service.
Among other things, the questionnaire details ExpressVPN’s answers to many questions people have about privacy and the steps the company takes to protect its users. That includes the process for responding to requests for data, how they guard against unauthorized access, and more.
As noted on that page, ExpressVPN does collect some necessary metadata from users, although this is not able to match any individual to network activity or their behavior. The metadata they collect includes things like which servers people choose to connect to, how much data is used, and the operating systems people use to access their services.
Even for VPNs, this kind of data is crucial because it helps them understand how people are using their service. For example, if they can see that many more people are trying to get VPN server locations in a particular country, they know they should install more servers there to help manage the increasing demand.
In short, this is information that’s fair and reasonable for any VPN service to collect. Their willingness to be transparent about what they’re collecting, and why, is a strong mark in their favor.
Even better than this is their explanation of user security setups. This ranges from hardening workstations against threats and using multi-factor authentication to hiring external penetration testers to check over new code. This includes frequent scanning for vulnerabilities in dependencies, too.
While their explanations are catered towards regular users, not technical security professionals, it’s clear that ExpressVPN is transparent about its activities and willing to go through extra steps to demonstrate their sincerity. We like seeing that, and it’s part of why ExpressVPN has such a good score here.
However, there’s a lot more to a VPN than just transparency about their process. Let’s look at some more information about the company, including other factors that will help you decide whether ExpressVPN is the correct service for your needs. After all, the fact that a company is good in general does not inherently mean it’s good for you.
Future of Privacy Scholarship
ExpressVPN’s Future of Privacy Scholarship is a $5000 cash prize for one winner, plus non-cash rewards for several runner-up applicants the judges like. This is a relatively decent scholarship; while it’s not a full education in its own right, it’s significant enough to make a difference for many people.
However, while scholarships like this help encourage people to think about privacy and security issues, we can’t give ExpressVPN too many points for having it. To be clear: we like the scholarship. It is fundamentally a good thing, and the fact that the company offers it is a point in its favor.
We can’t value it too high because this isn’t a huge investment for their company. It’s more about public relations than anything else. We only award companies many points for things like this when it’s a significant investment for them. Otherwise, it’s similar to a regular advertising campaign.
If a company wants to earn a higher rating, they need to make a serious investment in supporting privacy and free speech ideals. Lesser activities cannot go beyond “that’s nice” because anything that costs almost no resources to do doesn’t deserve the same benefits as a significant investment brings.
To put it another way, we want to encourage companies to make real investments, rather than feel-good investments. We also believe in exhaustive reviews, so we talk about even smaller details like this scholarship.
This is an essential part of any VPN service. Features determine how fast a server is, what people can do, and how a VPN service can protect your privacy. For most users, features are what make or break a service, so let’s see what ExpressVPN offers and how it compares to other services.
RAM-Only Servers – TrustedServer technology
The short version is that we like this feature—a lot. ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology uses independently-audited software that runs on the RAM of its servers, rather than from the hard drive. Explaining why this matters will take a few moments.
Most computers have two types of storage on them. Secondary storage is what most people are familiar with. This includes hard drives, USB drives, DVDs, and other types of non-volatile, long-term data storage. Secondary storage is significantly cheaper than the other option, so it’s the tool of choice for most needs.
Primary storage is volatile memory, which means it only holds data while the computer is actively running. It’s significantly more expensive than any form of secondary storage, and the fact that it can’t hold data when the computer is off makes it a terrible choice for storing data over extended periods.
However, primary storage – which most computers have mainly in the form of RAM – is also incredibly faster than any secondary storage option. Even solid-state drives (SSDs) are much slower than RAM. This means that when a computer operates entirely off of RAM, it’s much faster than it would otherwise be.
ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology uses the difference between these storage mediums to make each server function better. The servers themselves only read from the hard drive. They never write to the drive, which means there’s virtually no risk of data or corruption.
This also means that the entire software set is reinstalled every time the server boots, and all new data is wiped whenever the server reboots. Together, this means that ExpressVPN knows exactly what’s running on every server. Regular system reboots ensure the servers wipe data from older sessions and remove anything people might use to monitor traffic.
Finally, this technology prevents inconsistencies between servers. Every server runs the same code, which means there are no different settings to worry about. This is far more secure than having thousands of servers with different configurations. This technology, by itself, is a large part of why we give ExpressVPN a great score.
The kill switch – or, as ExpressVPN prefers to refer to it, the network lock – is a common feature among VPNs. We don’t give them extra points for having this because it’s nearly standard. We’d only remove points if they didn’t have it.
The kill switch is essentially an extra security step that disables your internet traffic if you ever lose access to your VPN server. Without this, you could wind up unintentionally sending traffic over regular connections instead. That leaves all of your data vulnerable to snooping, especially if you’re on public networks.
ExpressVPN’s kill switch restores the service as soon as you can get a connection again. If the connection is down for extended periods, which is unlikely, you can disable your VPN and use the internet normally.
We say it’s unlikely that the whole system will be down for any length of time because servers function independently. Even in the worst-case scenario of an entire server building exploding somewhere, that won’t do much to hurt the rest of the network and servers located in other parts of the world.
The only viable way to shut down a VPN service is for its owners to do that themselves. Since consistency is fundamental to their business model, most VPN services only take a few servers offline at a time to fix hardware problems or change out their hard drives. The only likely scenario for the entire service going down is that someone finds a vulnerability, and they have to take their service offline to fix it as fast as possible. Otherwise, kill switches exist mainly to protect you from the odd spike in network traffic. These are important, but don’t come into play as often as you might expect.
These are also useful if you’re in an area with changing networks, such as when you’re walking around in a city. These can have intermittent interruptions when you change networks, so kill switches are more useful for people who are on the go.
This is a more rare feature among VPNs, and it’s part of what helps ExpressVPN stand out from competitors. The DNS, or Domain Name Service, is essentially a huge directory that converts website names to IP addresses. Here’s why this matters.
Most people cannot remember the IP addresses for every site they want to visit. This is particularly true for sites, apps, and services that have changing IP addresses. The Domain Name System bridges this gap by using URLs that humans can remember to help people find websites and services easier.
However, with some VPNs, this is a security gap. Every internet connection needs to visit the DNS at some point, or it won’t establish the connection properly. Publicly-operated DNS servers can gather a lot of information about users by looking at the sites they visit, defeating the purpose of using a VPN.
ExpressVPN addresses this by hosting their own DNS on every VPN server. This means that all your data can stay on their servers while processing these requests, and it’s protected by all of their other safeguards and protocols. Since your traffic doesn’t need to visit another server, it also means faster response times from that server.
This provides a few other things that can help you. First, this prevents DNS hijacking, where people could send false information to redirect you. All of ExpressVPN’s DNS systems and encrypted and authenticated, so people cannot observe or change them.
Also, this prevents DNS-blocking systems from working. Since blockers can’t see the traffic, they can’t censor your activity based on the DNS requests that you make.
Ultimately, we believe this is something every VPN provider should do. Unfortunately, many of them don’t, although that may change as this becomes an increasingly-demanded feature among users. Since most of ExpressVPN’s competitors don’t have a private DNS system, this is a standout feature that makes them worth considering above other services.
Split tunneling is a relatively new process for VPNs, but it does have benefits for some users.
Essentially, this feature routes some of your traffic to a VPN while leaving the rest of it alone. For example, you can use split-tunneling to protect all of your browser’s data while ignoring everything from non-browser apps and software.
The obvious question for many people, at this point, is, “Okay, but why would I ever want to do that?”
It’s true that split tunneling is fundamentally less safe than using a VPN for all of your traffic. However, there are a few use cases for it.
First, and arguably the most popular, is simultaneously accessing different internet services. For example, split tunneling can let you connect to a country’s local network while also allowing you to browse the web as if you were back home. This is extremely useful for staying in touch with your favorite streaming services while you’re on vacation.
There are also times when transmitting data to your VPN can hog your bandwidth. Split tunneling can reduce your data usage and let other people on your network get faster speeds even while you’re busy.
Finally, in many cases, it’s hard to access LAN devices like printers while you’re hooked up to a VPN. Split tunneling allows you to access other devices instead of disconnecting from the internet whenever you want to perform a necessary task on your local network.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to use split tunneling despite how useless it sounds when you first hear about it. Like the kill switch, we don’t give points when VPNs have this because it’s a relatively popular (and useful) feature. ExpressVPN offers this service, so it gets to keep the points for having it.
Built-in Speed Test
How fast is your connection? This isn’t a huge feature, but the ExpressVPN speed test is still useful for seeing how your connection speeds vary when your VPN is on or off. Actual rates will vary based on factors like where you are in the world and what you’re trying to do.
For example, if the server you’re trying to connect to is slow, it doesn’t matter how fast your connection is because the other server puts a hard cap on data transfer speeds. However, there are also times when ISPs try to throttle speeds if they think you’re using too much data.
ExpressVPN’s speed test addresses this issue by helping you figure out how fast your connection is when the service is on and when it’s off. As a secondary benefit, this speed test can help determine if your VPN connection is fast enough to support live-streaming video, certain video games, and other cases where connection speed is incredibly important.
ExpressVPN allows you to connect up to five devices simultaneously. As with most VPNs, it’s essential to keep in mind that this refers to the number of active connections, not the number of devices you install their software on. You can install it on as many devices as you want, which is crucial if you want to protect your entire household.
ExpressVPN also supports router installations as long as you have a compatible router to put their app on. This protects every device connected to that router simultaneously, which is extremely useful for protecting devices that it is otherwise difficult to install VPNs on.
For example, it’s hard to install new software onto smart home devices, including many home assistants. However, if those devices ultimately connect to your router, installing your VPN there allows you to protect everything. Routers functionally count as one device.
ExpressVPN does not throttle your traffic. While your speeds are still somewhat limited by your ISP, ExpressVPN makes it easier to download as much content as you need. This is incredibly helpful if you work from home and need to stream videos or transfer large files.
ExpressVPN claims that they let you protect any device, but this is only mostly true. They do support a wide variety of systems, including computers, tablets, and handheld devices, as we’ll get to below. You can even perform manual installations on many other devices.
However, there are a few cases where you might not be able to protect your devices. For example, if your router isn’t compatible with a VPN installed there and you have devices you can’t install your VPN onto, their service wouldn’t work.
That’s a bit of a nitpick, but we think it’s essential to evaluate companies’ claims and evaluate how true they are. ExpressVPN router software does work for most people without issues, but it’s not 100% compatible with every device. Here’s what you should know about their options.
Native apps are the best version of a VPN. They allow you to protect an entire device, regardless of how you’re connecting to the internet. This is fundamentally superior to options like browser extensions, which we’ll get to below. You can install the ExpressVPN app onto Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Routers, Chromebook, and Kindle Fire devices.
This is more devices than many competitors support for native apps. ExpressVPN Android software is relatively common, for example, but far fewer companies offer support for things like Kindle Fire devices. That’s another point where ExpressVPN stands out from the crowd, and it’s worth taking a moment to look closer at.
VPNs are useless if they don’t work on your device. This is one of the core considerations of every buying decision. If there’s a VPN that only works on iOS while someone has Android devices, they’re not going to subscribe to it regardless of its features.
ExpressVPN has native apps available on more devices than many other VPNs, and that alone makes it a better choice for many people. This kind of availability is also useful to existing customers because it offers some future-proofing. Specifically, it allows you to change devices in the future without worrying that the switch will render your VPN obsolete.
Browser extensions aren’t as good as native VPN apps in most circumstances. However, just like split tunneling, there are a few use cases where using a browser extension makes sense.
First, if you don’t use the internet outside of a browser, an extension is sufficient. However, this isn’t as common as some people believe. Most people download computer updates, for example, and various apps may send data back to their developers without telling you. An ExpressVPN extension for your browser isn’t going to stop that.
Second, browser extensions are useful if you have an app that’s incompatible with VPNs. These are rare, but some developers may program things to create specific, direct connections only as an additional security measure. A VPN could interfere with your work in these cases, so a browser extension is a useful alternative.
However, this is one area where ExpressVPN falls a little short of many of its peers. They only provide browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. The ExpressVPN Chrome extension is broadly the most popular choice, but the limited number of options for an ExpressVPN browser extension means some users won’t have access.
The most notable absence here is Safari. While Safari isn’t as popular as Chrome, Stat Counter reports that it’s still the #2 browser as of mid-2020. Opera gets a pass because it has its built-in VPN (although that’s not an especially great choice, and not as good as ExpressVPN).
Finally, ExpressVPN supports manual setup on specific devices. Not all devices in these categories are necessarily compatible with VPNs, but most modern iterations are.
ExpressVPN works on many smart TV devices, including the large majority of Android-based televisions. These screens are more app-friendly to start with, making converting the software from the phone version significantly easier.
Samsung is an outlier here. Their smart TVs typically can’t run VPN software directly, which is where ExpressVPN’s alternatives come in. For screens like these, you can use ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer service. This service changes your location but doesn’t help protect your privacy the same way a VPN does.
Alternatively, if your smart TV’s internet connection goes through your VPN-enabled router, it can benefit from that just like all the other devices in your household. This is usually the easiest way to use a VPN on your television, so we recommend it for most homes.
The critical factor to be aware of here is that your television internet must go through your router. This can prevent you from taking advantage of other services, such as public internet, that might be faster. Most people don’t have to worry about this, but it’s something to be aware of.
ExpressVPN works on Apple TV devices (and their rarely-discussed tvOS) in the same way it works for Samsung televisions. Specifically, you have your choice of their MediaStreamer service or connecting to a router for the full benefits of using a VPN. While it’s unfortunate there are no native apps, there is one positive of this setup we should discuss: its compatibility.
Router-based VPN services are widely compatible with almost any type of internet-connected device. This means that if you install ExpressVPN (or a competitor) on your router, you can usually protect even older technology without issue. That includes previous-generation smart televisions, with no worry that updates to the OS or your VPN software will make it stop working.
The ExpressVPN Firestick app allows you to download and install the app directly to most Amazon devices. Notably, this includes most Amazon Fire TV units, except for their first-generation models. Regrettably, the earliest TVs aren’t compatible, but most people don’t have or use those right now.
Notably, since this is the app, you can have full protection when you’re using your TV stick. The MediaStreamer service only changes your effective location. Installing ExpressVPN on Firestick has another upside: You can take the stick on the go without losing the benefits of your VPN. This is extremely useful if you want to take your streaming stick with you on vacation.
Firestick compatibility is relatively rare among VPNs, so the compatibility here is another point in ExpressVPN’s favor.
ExpressVPN’s Roku compatibility is somewhat different from how it works on the Firestick, enough so to make it worth discussing separately. The easiest version is to install ExpressVPN on your router, which avoids any compatibility issues and allows you to future-proof your purchases. However, it’s not the only way you can use ExpressVPN on Roku.
The app also supports using a virtual router system. This means it can share an ExpressVPN connection through a personal computer, which avoids the need to buy any new hardware. Not all computers support creating virtual routers, so this isn’t suitable for all households.
Finally, ExpressVPN also supports Mirror to TV situations. This allows you to display video from your smartphone or your computer to your television. Like virtual routers, this doesn’t work with all hardware setups, but it’s nice to have the option available.
Notably, this is useful for accessing content while traveling because chances are you’re already bringing a smartphone or another compatible device with you. This lets you access Roku content on someone else’s smart television without having to install VPNs or worry about the security of their internet.
Chromecast connections for ExpressVPN function in the same way that Roku connections do. That is, you have your choice of a router connection, a virtual router from your computer, or using a Mirror to TV system.
To dive into this subject a little more, we prefer using ExpressVPN on a router because it’s fundamentally easier. Mirroring content to televisions drains the battery of the device you’re streaming from, which makes it a poor choice for frequent or long-term video playback. It’s still an excellent option, but we don’t recommend it as your standard setup unless you have no other choice.
Unfortunately, ExpressVPN does not have native app functionality on Chromecast devices the way it does for Firesticks and other Amazon devices.
This isn’t as rare as some people think, but ExpressVPN does support Nvidia Shield devices. The easiest way to install things here is by using the ExpressVPN APK and installing the software directly on your Shield device. The Express VPN APK works because Nvidia Shield is Android-based and supports most apps that work on other Android devices.
ExpressVPN supports gaming consoles the same way it supports most other streaming devices: You can use the MediaStreamer service or connect to a VPN-protected router. However, while this is viable for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony consoles, gaming consoles have a different use scenario than most other streaming devices.
Specifically, consoles care about connection times. Any delays in your connection can lead to games feeling slow or even unplayable if you’re doing things online. Something as simple as a one-second delay can effectively ruin many gaming experiences, which is why gamers try so hard to avoid that.
Every server that sits between your game console and its internet destination is a potential impediment. Protecting your privacy is important, but a high-quality VPN must be able to do that while still allowing you to do what you want to do. If a VPN stops you from enjoying content at all, it’s not a good service.
The upside of this is that ExpressVPN has a large, high-speed network of servers. This means that it can usually provide high-stream content with minimal lag, and that’s what gamers need. The easiest (and best) way to use ExpressVPN on any gaming console is an Express VPN router setup.
ExpressVPN has a relatively large server network. CyberGhost and NordVPN have more, but with more than 3000 servers in its network, ExpressVPN still has one of the largest server networks of any VPN provider. Any network with over 1000 servers is large, and any network with over 3000 servers is very large.
Helpfully, ExpressVPN offers an incredibly-detailed list of their server locations. This guide includes detailed information on servers, including which VPN protocols they offer in each area. If you need to use a particular protocol, this will help you determine your options. ExpressVPN details the specifics of different locations in countries where they have multiple facilities.
One thing you’ll notice about their server network is that they support OpenVPN, IPsec, and IKEv2 almost everywhere. These are essentially the base-line setup for ExpressVPN and what you can expect from them no matter which country you want to connect to.
L2TP/IPsec and PPTP are only available in some areas. PPTP isn’t necessary for most users; while it’s very fast, it’s also more vulnerable than other options, which defeats the purpose of using a VPN.
ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for streaming content from different providers. This includes Netflix, YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other services you may want to connect to. It’s also compatible with most local streaming services, including those that may be little-known outside of their home countries.
Unlike some other VPNs, ExpressVPN is also compatible with casting or mirroring content to a television. This isn’t necessarily a great choice for 4K video, which takes significantly more bandwidth (and therefore battery power) than lower-resolution videos, but it is an option. ExpressVPN Netflix unlocking is a major reason why many people use this service.
However, it’s worth noting that the Express VPN Netflix compatibility doesn’t make this a great streaming service by itself. Most VPNs are pretty good at streaming video content from various streaming services, so this capability isn’t unique or special.
ExpressVPN does stream most videos quite fast, however, which makes it a great choice when you don’t want to worry about buffering content or having things slow down.
For Streaming Sports
ExpressVPN is also a good choice for streaming live sports. This functions similarly to streaming other content, but like video gaming, sports are often a time-sensitive thing. Knowing the broadcast is on a delay can mute enjoyment a little.
With ExpressVPN, this works mainly through local streaming services in different countries. Of course, this assumes that a streaming service in each country carries the content you want to watch, which isn’t always guaranteed. Some services have pre-recorded broadcasts, but other services have live sports content.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to provide more information than this because services vary, and there’s no universal process for connecting to them. It’s also worth considering whether you have options for watching the content.
Many sports broadcast in multiple languages, so you may need to select a different country for their version of the broadcast, rather than the country where people are playing the game you’re watching.
The good news is that you can watch most sports events through ExpressVPN. It may take a little research, plus some trial-and-error, but it’s usually doable.
ExpressVPN torrenting options are wrapped into its main connections. Unlike some VPN companies, ExpressVPN does not have dedicated torrenting servers, which can improve speeds for everyone. However, it has enough servers that it rarely ends up burdening too many of them, so the end result is similar.
While torrenting still has an air of suspicion about it, many modern companies have realized that torrenting is a fast and effective way of transferring data. For example, video game developers often use torrents to send large game files and updates to their users.
Other businesses use torrenting to transfer large files internally, and this is especially useful if you’re working from home.
The key thing to remember is that many people prefer torrents for large files, and this can go against any data or bandwidth caps you have. A few video games are in excess of 150 gigabytes of data, and downloading content like that can make you run up against data caps set by your internet service provider.
VPNs anonymize the data, so ISPs can’t be sure how much data you’re using. The practical result is that downloading large files won’t count against your data, and the ISP won’t throttle your connection for using too much bandwidth. Together, these make ExpressVPN a solid choice for torrenting.
What this doesn’t do is make ExpressVPN unique. Just as with streaming, torrenting over a VPN isn’t anything especially rare or unusual. Rather, this is a standard service. A company can earn points here if it’s especially good at torrenting, but they won’t lose any points as long as they provide the service at all.
In short: While ExpressVPN offers this, you should not treat it as a distinguishing factor to help you make a decision.
Here are some alternatives to ExpressVPN that are worth considering. After this section, we’ll also have some more in-depth comparisons to other popular services, including those that are significantly different from the way ExpressVPN operates.
CyberGhost is an excellent option to look at if you’re concerned about privacy. They operate a system they refer to as NoSpy servers, which means they own and manage the entire data center where the servers are stored. This prevents unauthorized physical access by anyone else, even maintenance personnel.
Unfortunately, these servers are a small part of their network. While they’re run out of Romania, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, they’re not a great choice if your connection speed is paramount, and you want to use servers somewhere else in the world.
To be clear: We like CyberGhost’s NoSpy server system. However, as with the scholarship we discussed earlier, anything that isn’t more widely available isn’t a huge factor for most people.
Surfshark is a good competitor if speed is your main focus. Like ExpressVPN, it offers RAM-only servers. In fact, this is the only type of server that Surfshark uses; they upgraded their entire network in 2020 to use diskless servers.
Outside of the speed benefits that come with operating exclusively from RAM, Surfshark supports unlimited devices and has better independent auditing. It’s also cheaper, which is a major factor for many people. In summary, Surfshark is an excellent alternative to ExpressVPN and well worth considering.
ProtonVPN is a little slower than most other networks, but it does that in the name of security. It passes most traffic through secured servers located in privacy-friendly Switzerland and Iceland, which means even a compromised endpoint server can’t get the real IP address you’re using.
ProtonVPN also uses ciphers that have a Perfect Forward Secrecy system. In layman’s terms, this means that encrypted traffic cannot be captured and decrypted at a future point, even if somebody manages to compromise the encryption key later on.
However, while ProtonVPN is a high-quality service, it does have a few things holding it back. First, its cheaper plans have limited features (instead of providing all features like most of its competitors do). It’s also relatively expensive for a VPN service and has servers in fewer countries than ExpressVPN.
ProtonVPN is a good service overall, but for these reasons, we don’t think it’s quite as great as ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN
NordVPN is one of the largest and most well-known VPN providers in the world. In fact, they’re so popular that they’re almost synonymous with VPNs in general. Here’s what we think about the ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN debate.
NordVPN is located in Panama, which is a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Isles, which are somewhat more privacy-friendly than Panama.
Both of these services have third-party audits to verify their software and systems’ integrity, which is a mark in their favor. Unfortunately, it means this isn’t a good way to distinguish themselves from each other.
As far as native apps go, ExpressVPN supports more devices, including products from companies like Amazon that most other providers ignore. This doesn’t matter for most users because both VPNs cover the most popular devices, but it is a place where ExpressVPN distinguishes itself.
As far as advanced features go, NordVPN focuses on its Double VPN and Onion Over VPN technologies. Double VPN is essentially bouncing connections between two or more servers to anonymize it even more. This is bad for speed but good for privacy. Onion Over VPN is very slow but uses even more servers for maximum privacy.
ExpressVPN, in contrast, has its TrustedServer technology for RAM-only processes. This is great for reducing any chance of long-term penetration.
NordVPN’s server network is objectively larger in the NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN debate, with Nord offering over 5500 servers in 59 countries. ExpressVPN has fewer servers (somewhere above 3000), but ExpressVPN also has a presence in more countries than NordVPN does. If you want to access a less-popular jurisdiction, ExpressVPN is ultimately better.
Both services support streaming and torrenting, and they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means neither of these features helps device the Nord vs. ExpressVPN debate. NordVPN is somewhat cheaper than ExpressVPN, although both are on the high end of what VPN services typically charge, so they’re not great choices for budget-focused buyers.
With all of this considered, we like NordVPN a little better than ExpressVPN. NordVPN has many advanced features that make them a great choice, although they haven’t fully integrated all of them or taken them as far as they can go. Both of these are good services, though, so you can expect an excellent service regardless of whether you choose ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish
Another comparison many people ask about is IPVanish vs. ExpressVPN. Here’s what you should know about the way these two options compare to each other.
IPVanish is a mid-size VPN service with about 1500 servers across 75 locations. The huge majority of their servers are in North America, Europe, and the Australia/New Zealand area. This isn’t particularly unusual for a VPN, but it does mean they don’t have as many smaller facilities in other countries, so they’re not as good for accessing international content.
ExpressVPN has over 3000 servers across 94 countries, with about 160 server locations total. That makes it roughly twice as large as IPVanish, though server size alone is more a measure of popularity than speed. Most VPN companies only add new servers as needed, which helps reduce costs.
IPVanish is based in the United States, which means it is subject to subpoena requests easier than VPNs located in other jurisdictions. However, they do have a zero-logs policy, and their software does not record activity or take automatic diagnostics of your machine.
There are a few things that set IPVanish apart from competitors like ExpressVPN. Notably, IPVanish offers 250 gigabytes of encrypted storage and backup to users, which is useful if you need to protect pictures or other irreplaceable content. Few VPNs offer data storage, though there are plenty of other options for protecting content.
However, IPVanish also provides shared IPs to users. This can occasionally run afoul of website or app security processes if other users are trying to access them from the same IP address. They have over 40,000 addresses to share, but it’s worth keeping in mind that you may experience the odd lockout.
Otherwise, IPVanish offers unthrottled speeds, full access to censored websites, unmetered connections, and a 30-day money-back guarantee to let you test their content more effectively.
Overall, we like ExpressVPN more than IPVanish. IPVanish’s jurisdiction, smaller network, and comparatively limited features mean it doesn’t hold up quite as well. IPVanish is a decent VPN provider, but there are better options out there.
However, for fairness, we need to point out that IPVanish is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN. If you’re on a tighter budget, IPVanish becomes instantly more appealing, though there are still better services in the same price range. That’s not enough to change which one we prefer, but it is important to note this difference.
ExpressVPN vs. Avast VPN
Another common comparison people ask about is the Avast VPN vs. ExpressVPN choice. Here’s what you should know about the way these compare.
Avast VPN (also known as Avast SecureLine VPN) is a relatively new offering from Avast Software s.r.o., a Czech company more widely known for its antivirus software. Avast Software s.r.o. is a subsidiary of Avast Software BV (Dutch), itself a subsidiary of Avast Holding BV (also Dutch), which is a subsidiary of Avast (Czech, again).
This chain of ownership isn’t unusual among multinational corporations. VPN companies that operate entirely by themselves are somewhat safer in this regard.
Avast claims a total user base of over 430 million people, although most of these people do not use Avast VPN. Unfortunately, Avast does not clearly explain how many servers they have, though more reports from mid-2020 put them in the low dozens. This indicates that few people use their service compared to a larger provider like ExpressVPN.
However, Avast does offer a few more details about their service. They do not impose bandwidth limits and support up to five devices simultaneously. They also enable connection speeds of up to 2 gigabits per second, but this requires getting content from servers that can handle those speeds, and most connections aren’t that fast.
They also cite the ability to add capacity quickly by creating virtual VPN servers through trusted partners. This is a point of failure because it means Avast has minimal control over such servers, and it would be much easier for someone to infiltrate through that route.
That said, they do scale things in a way that helps them avoid unduly burdening their servers. Each server has enough excess capacity to handle peak loads, which is a point in their favor.
For all of the reasons explained above, we feel that ExpressVPN is significantly better than Avast VPN. Avast VPN is from a well-known company, but it’s a much smaller network and doesn’t offer the same variety of features as a top-tier VPN service.
Like IPVanish, however, Avast VPN is moderately cheaper than ExpressVPN. Pricing does matter, especially if you want to pay for a year or more up-front, but we think there are significantly better services in the same price range and do not recommend using Avast VPN in its current form.
Reddit About ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN Reddit posts are relatively scarce, but you can find some discussion about their service if you look around. This isn’t particularly rare for VPN services because discussions tend to be brief. However, we like looking at commentary because there’s no substitute for actual user experiences when evaluating a VPN service.
This is something we call “the wisdom of the crowd” for reviews. No matter how long we spend testing a service, that’s only a few points of view at most. Looking at the average reviews of services provides a much broader, composite view of their performance, and that’s extremely useful for uncovering details or situations we may have overlooked.
This review, posted several years ago, indicates the user’s happiness with having a uniform client across different devices. They also pointed out that they got very different speeds depending on the server they connected to, which is a key aspect of getting the most from any VPN. At its best, it was about 40% of their ISP’s speed, but ExpressVPN has improved since then.
During another ExpressVPN post Reddit users considered, we found some talk about disconnects. These are a little concerning to hear about regardless of the VPN, but the user mentioned that things had still largely stabilized after the next update.
It didn’t seem like the service was ever out long-term for them, but it’s worth considering this type of thing if you require uninterrupted connections.
It is possible to get an ExpressVPN trial, but it’s a little tricky. The ExpressVPN free trial is only available on mobile devices, primarily iOS and Android, after you download their native apps from the appropriate storefront.
Needless to say, this isn’t much of a free trial, and it barely deserves the name because it’s relatively limited and inconvenient to access. However, it does technically have a longer free trial period if you sign up normally.
Like many other VPN providers, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on its services. It takes about a week to get the money back from them, so don’t expect to have the cash returning to your bank account as soon as you’re done with their service. If you choose to cancel your plan during the trial period, it is effectively free.
Many people experiment with free trial periods while traveling internationally on vacation. It’s a great way to experiment with accessing content from your home country while having protection when you need it most. If it works while you’re on vacation, you can keep using it once you get home.
That said, starting your VPN subscription sooner is always better if you’re concerned about privacy. If you only want to access region-limited content, which is easily one of the most popular uses for VPNs, you should start it whenever you’re ready.
Outside of the 30-day money-back guarantee described above, the normal ExpressVPN price varies from about $12.95 per month for a monthly subscription to $8.32 per month for a yearly subscription. As with all VPNs, these prices may change over time, so be sure you check their website for the latest pricing information.
Even assuming the longest subscription, the ExpressVPN cost is higher than many of its competitors. Many VPNs are $5 or less per month with their longest plan, with a few high-quality services going as low as $2 per month. They do offer quite a few features for the price, but it’s still higher than we’d like to see.
The primary benefit you get for the extra money is access to ExpressVPN’s relatively large server network. With over 3000 servers across literally dozens of countries, ExpressVPN actively invests in growing their network and meeting user demand. That benefit only comes to people who switch VPN servers regularly, though, which isn’t most users.
In short, ExpressVPN is a little overpriced for the value it gives to its members. Small differences in monthly prices add up quickly, especially when you have to pay about $100 up-front to even try their service (unless you can get the free trial on mobile devices, anyway).
That said, you can mitigate the cost if you participate in their referral program. Like all VPN providers, ExpressVPN wants to grow its customer base. More importantly, they recognize that no advertising is better than a friend telling you something worked for their needs.
Their Refer A Friend program gives both you and your friend 30 free days when they sign up through your referral link. If you’re good at advertising, you can make ExpressVPN effectively free by referring enough people to roll over the time and extend the free period. Even referring one or two people a year can provide a tidy discount on your real monthly costs.
We do not recommend referring friends to ExpressVPN unless you genuinely believe their service is the best option for your friend’s needs. After all, trust is important. Establishing that kind of trust is a large part of why this review is so comprehensive.
Yes, we could do a short review that briefly explains a VPN service. However, chances are you’ve already seen reviews like that. We go into extensive detail because we want you familiar with both the service and the context the service should be understood in. When you have context, it’s much easier to make an informed decision.
So, after evaluating everything, how do you feel about the ExpressVPN best VPN service claims? Like every service, they want you to believe that they are the best in the world. That’s just marketing, though, and it’s what we expect from companies in this industry.
We rate ExpressVPN as a 4.5/5. It’s an excellent overall service with broad compatibility, excellent features, and a forward-thinking mindset. While it’s not quite perfect, its premium pricing comes with a lot of benefits, and it’s a good choice for most people.
If you want to learn about other top-rated options, visit our Best VPNs page.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions people have about ExpressVPN. This section is meant for easy browsing by people who want fast answers, so parts of it will cover things we discussed in detail earlier.